in India, Indonesia, Japan, Saudi Arabia

How forest cover and oil reserves match four countries’ positions on REDD

unIn the outcome of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action at the Durban COP17, the LCA invited “views on modalities and procedures for financing results-based actions and considering activities related to decision 1/CP.16, paragraphs 68–70 and 72”.

The submissions were due by 5 March 2012. Four countries have submitted their views: Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Japan and India. These four are available on the UNFCCC submissions from parties website.

A recent article in The Guardian looked at how countries’ fossil fuel reserves matched their negotiating position in the UN climate change meetings. I thought it would be interesting to take a preliminary look at these four submissions in terms of the countries’ forest cover and oil reserves.*

Saudi Arabia‘s submission is critical of REDD. Much of it reads like a radical “No REDD” NGO submission. Having stated that the country “would like to support the acceleration of research on REDD”, the submission states that,

“Saudi Arabia would also like to highlight the issues that have not been addressed yet, such as leakage, long term evaluation, long term liabilities, MRV methodologies, etc. Some of these issues might have been examined or discussed, but no satisfactory solutions were reached.”

Saudi Arabia also points out that despite several years of discussions about REDD,

“REDD has yet to develop clear definitions for terms such as deforestation, land degradation, sustainable management of forests, enhancement of forest carbon levels, reference levels, etc.”

Saudi Arabia also raises concerns about indigenous peoples and the “commercialization of forests”:

“Saudi Arabia would also like to highlight that even in the national level, REDD laws are premature and issues concerning different stakeholders, including indigenous people, have not been addressed sufficiently. This could only lead to the commercialization of forests and leading the indigenous people and civil societies to an unconsented future. This on its own is a clear violation of article 19 of the UNDRIP.”

Saudi Arabia has a total area of approximately 977,000 hectares of forest or around 0.5% of the country’s land area. The rate of deforestation is zero. Meaning that the country would never benefit from REDD no matter how the financing rules were rigged. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is one of the world biggest producers of oil, with proven oil reserves of 265 billion barrels.

Indonesia‘s submission contains no criticism of REDD and reads like a funding proposal. In its submission, Indonesia recognises,

“the need for substantial financial resources to address drivers of deforestation and forest degradation . . . to asses potential contributions of conservation, sustainable management of forest, and enhancing forest carbon stocks; and to implement guidance and safeguards.”

Indonesia doesn’t much care where the money comes from. “As regard financing options,” the submission states,

“Indonesia considers that … a combination of market and non market‐based approaches/mechanisms including forest investment for all types of forests, which may come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources, should be used for the full implementation of the result‐based actions, in a complementary basis. . . financing for full implementation of result‐based REDD+ actions should be part of developed country Parties’ commitment to jointly mobilize financial resources of USD 100 billion per year by 2020.”

Indonesia has large areas of forest remaining and an extremely high rate of deforestation. Between 1990 and 2000, Indonesia lost an average of 1.2 million hectares of forest a year. That means that Indonesia stands a pretty good chance of getting funding through REDD, although at some stage the country might have to actually reduce is deforestation, which could prove tricky. It may even have to recognise the rights of its indigenous peoples, which could prove even trickier. Indonesia has proven oil reserves of 4 billion barrels.

Japan‘s submission reads like a sales pitch for the gizmos and technological advice needed to measuring the carbon stored in forests. Japan confirms that it is interested in the carbon credits that it hopes REDD will generate:

For ensuring sufficient volume of finance, various types of finance, including public and private finance, in both developed and developing countries, should be mobilized. . . . it is necessary to make it possible for each country to choose types of finance (public/private) and types of channels (market-based / non-market-based, centralized / decentralized mechanisms, bilateral / multilateral channels, etc.) according to its own national circumstances and policies. In choosing types of finance, effective use of experience gained from demonstration activities is crucial. Therefore, demonstration activities should be promoted and their role should be appropriately given its rightful place in national systems.

Japan has about 15 million hectares of forest, of which 4.7 million hectares is primary forest. In addition, the country has 10 million hectares of plantations. The deforestation rate is extremely low. In any case, as an Annex I country, Japan will not be able to benefit from REDD payments. It has proven oil reserves of 44 million barrels, but high industrial emissions that it is keen to offset.

India‘s submission reads like a plea from a country that has devastated its forests, but is nevertheless keen to benefit from REDD payments. India starts its submission by noting that there are several definitions (deforestation, forest degradation, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests, enhancement of forest carbon stocks, national forest reference/emission reference level) that still need “to be clearly defined”.

But given the fact that it could take anything between five and 50 years for the UN to agree the definitions, India has a suggestion:

“Countries may use their own methodologies to measure emissions from forest
degradation, till a common methodology for the purpose is agreed by the Parties.”

India’s cunning plan is to introduce payments for “trees outside forests”, which would presumably mean counting the carbon contained in every tree in the country. It would also presumably allow industrial tree plantations to be included in REDD, regardless of whether they were defined as “forests” or “plantations”.

At one point in the submission, India seems to be against trading of forest carbon under a REDD mechanism:

“Stabilized/conserved forest carbon stocks will be incentivized using non-market based mechanism.”

And India suggests a minimum price for forest carbon, to be “fixed as agreed by Parties”. The money is to be transferred from the UNFCCC to governments, who will in turn “without delay” transfer the money to “various stakeholders including local communities”.

But near the end of the submission, India appears to change its mind:

“Market-based approaches to be developed for incentivizing removals and emission reductions shall be separate from the CDM market.”

India has about 58 million hectares of forest, of which about 15.7 million is primary forest. In addition it has 10 million hectares of plantations. While the area of forest is decreasing at around 0.35% a year, the area of plantations is increasing and India is keen to gain REDD payments for these plantations. The country has proven oil reserves of 5.8 billion barrels.

* Both sets of statistics, forest cover and oil reserves are controversial. The forest cover figures come from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the CIA World Factbook.

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  1. And here is the submission of the big US international ‘conservation’ NGOs, which reads like a desperate plea for money from a bunch of people who have finally lost the plot, can’t see the contradictions in what they are calling for, who pose as ‘scientific/technical’ organisations but actually just promote their free-market dogma regardless of all the evidence, and who see their years of advocacy for carbon market funding of REDD collapsing around them:

    So the BINGOs “suggest that payments for REDD+ results should be clearly defined as payments only for emission reductions (tons of GHGs reduced per year)” but that “the UNFCCC should not be prescriptive in determining what on-the-ground activities can be undertaken by countries to achieve REDD+ outcomes under phase 3” (What the hell happened to Phases I and II?? ‘Oh, we can skip that: just give us the money for our projects…’).

    So far so predictable, but here comes the punch line; in order for this ‘GHG-reduction only’ approach to be possible, “countries will need to calculate robust Reference Levels to use as their benchmarks for environmental performance”.

    Ha ha ha, dream on, BINGOs. Quite apart from the very credible analytical work that has been done (by, for example, Alain Karsenty) showing that ‘robust reference levels of tropical deforestation’ is pretty much a contradiction in terms, have you not been watching what countries like Guyana and Indonesia have been doing? Have you not observed any of the manipulation going on behind the RPPs? Have you followed at all what rich countries have been doing with their own ‘reference levels’ for LULUCF calculations?

    Is this the kind of perverse outcome you want for a REDD carbon trading system that will also allow industrial polluters to carry on polluting?

    It’s all very sad, BINGOs, but your carbon markets and carbon accounting obsession, and the playing out of industrial corporate interests on your governing boards, has led you down a policy blind alley, and this submission is where you have ended up – proposing something that will never work on planet Earth, and could be a real danger to it.

  2. When I wrote this post, only four submissions had been posted on the UNFCCC website. The list of submissions now posted also includes the following: Gambia (for LDCs), Guyana, Denmark (for EU), China, USA, Malaysia, Bolivia and Honduras.